Former Grambling State head football coach Eddie Robinson could be still be considered by many the face of SWAC and HBCU football.
Robinson, who won 408 games at Grambling during his 56-year stint paroling the sidelines, helped cultivate more than 200 student-athletes into the professional football ranks.
I could go on and on rattling off the accomplishments of Robinson. They were unmatched by any HBCU head coach during his era and those who have since followed.
Some people debate on when the SWAC football started its decline. Many point to period of integration which slowly ate away at the pool of elite athletes HBCU schools were able to recruit.
Others say the financial gap between the haves (FBS) and the have-nots (HBCU football) resulted in the eroding of the on-field football product.
More vocal groups point to lucrative television contracts shelled out by ESPN/ABC, CBS and NBC and multi-million dollar facilities that have made it nearly impossible for HBCUs to attract the talent of yesteryear.
For me SWAC football died after Robinson coached his last football game. When he walked off into the sunset for good; out the door went a large part of the conference’s personality. It has since not be replaced.
Some will mention Pete Richardson when he coached at Southern or W.C. Gordon’s days at Jackson State. Others will talk about Jerry Rice when he was at Mississippi Valley State, Steve McNair when he was at Alcorn or Doug Williams who played and now coaches at Grambling?
While those are great SWAC football figures, I don’t know if they have or currently do carry the banner as the face of the conference the same way Robinson did.
Year in and year out for more than five decades you knew Robinson would be there and his Tigers would be on the prowl for another league and Black National Championship run.
Robinson helped shape and mold the identity of the SWAC.
He was respected and revered like no other figure in the history of the 10-team conglomerate.
As we head into yet another SWAC media extravaganza this week, the question needs to be asked: who is the face of the SWAC now? What player or coach can fill the role that Robinson once held?
Rick Comegy? Yes, he felt there was some sort of conspiracy to keep the Tigers out of the SWAC title game and his program was penalized for the players not living up to the APR mandate. However, he is not face of the league material.
Anthony Jones? Not tenured enough.
Melvin Spears? Former coach at Grambling who is now at Alcorn State and can’t wait to bite the hand that once fed him. Spears has always looked good in a pair of shades, was a winner for a number of years, but just doesn’t have that same mystique Coach Rob had.
Heishma Northern? Still wet behind the ears.
Does Casey Therriault, who was a revelation and national story (due to serving time in jail) last season, do anything for you?
Would fans pay to see someone else besides their own team? Don’t tell me the marching band. No way one of those outfits can be the face of the conference. Not on my watch at least.
Maybe its SWAC head honcho Duer Sharp. He has definitely been a polarizing figure since coming over from the Big Ten with the many controversial decisions he had made over the years. But it wouldn’t be appropriate for the face of a league to be its commissioner. (I know Roger Goodell is on line one with his rebuttal after reading that sentence).
Who else could it be though? Am I asking too much?
That’s how far SWAC football has fallen I guess. Grasping at straws to come up with someone who embodies what the conference is all about.
Lines two through infinity are open for those who want to call in with suggestions.